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The National Air & Space Museum’s He-162 Salamander

Updated on May 13, 2017

The He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983

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The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983.The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983.The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility.The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983. | Source
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, 1983. | Source
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber Facility. | Source
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998. | Source
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998. | Source
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.
The Smithsonian's He-162 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998. | Source

The He-162: A Plane of Many Questions

The National Air & Space Museum’s collection includes a Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger. This aircraft is made up of two He-162 airframes. Its tail section is of serial number 120222 and the rest of it is serial number 120230.

The concept behind the He-162 was to develop an aircraft made mostly with non-strategic materials, it has wooden wings, that could be assembled by workers with little skill. Pilots with little training would fly these aircraft against the Allied bombers. As such the He-162 represents the desperation and insanity of the Third Reich in the autumn of 1944.

Unlike other jet aircraft developed during World War II the He-162 went quickly from design, to first flight, to deployment. The basic project requirement was drawn up on September 8, 1944. Detailed drawings for the project were completed on October 29. The first prototype of the He-162 made its first flight on December 6. The test pilot,Flugkapitaen Peter, reported the aircraft had some longitudinal instability but it had satisfactory handling characteristics. During the flight an undercarriage door broke away from the aircraft. On December 10, Flugkapitaen Peter died when defective bonding caused his He-162 to break apart. Despite this set back two months later the pilots of I/JG1 were ordered to begin conversion training on the He-162.[i] Defective bondings and engine flameouts caused many He-162 crashes. Some of these defects may have been the results of sabotage by the slave laborers who constructed these aircraft.

The HE-162 in Combat

March 24, 1945 - Test pilot Harald Bauer was ordered to take off in an He-162 so it wouldn’t be destroyed in an imminent bombing attack on the airfield. He took off but was soon shot down by P-51s. He didn’t know the P-51s were there until they opened fire on him. Bauer was wounded but he managed to make a crash landing behind American lines where he was captured and taken to a fieldhospital.

April 19, 1945 - An RAF Tempest was shot down and its pilot was captured. The RAF pilot’s description of the victorious aircraft matched the He-162. An RAF Tempest, flown by Flying Officer Geoff Walkington of Nunber 222 Squadron, shot down an He-162, killing its pilot, Fahnenjunker[ii] Gunther Kirchner.

April 21, 1945 - He-162s flew ground attack sorties.

April 26, 1945 - Oberleutnant Karl-Emil Demuth and an enlisted pilot named Siegfried claimed they saw Unteroffizier[iii] Rechenbach shoot down an enemy fighter. Unteroffizier Rechenbach was in turn shot down and killed by a Spitfire.

May 4, 1945 - Leutnant Rudolf Schmitt claimed he shot down an RAF Tempest. Flight Officer M. Austin, the luckless Tempest pilot, bailed out safely. The Germans awarded the kill to an anti-aircraft crew.

The Smithonian’s aircraft, the 120230 part of it, is believed to have been the aircraft of Oberst[iv] Herbert Ihlefeld. Oberst Ihlefeld began flying combat missions with the Kondor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. He scored 9 kills in Spain. He shot down at least 123 aircraft in World War II.[v] Oberst Ihlefeld did not score any kills flying the He-162 but he apparently did fly combat missions in the He-162.

[i] The Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green,© 1970.

[ii] A rank about equivalent to a USAF Technical Sergeant.

[iii] A rank about equivalent to a U.S. Army Corporal.

[iv] Colonel.

[v] Air Aces, Christopher Shores © 1983 Bison Books Corp. This source credits Oberst Ihlefeld with 123 World War II kills, p. 52 and 130 Word War II kills p. 127.

He-162, Me-262, and Me-163 Comparison

 
He-162A-2
Me-262
Me-163
Loaded Weight
5,490 lbs
14,101 lbs
9,042 lbs
Wing Loading
46 lbs/sq.'
60 lbs/sq.'
43 - 21 lbs/sq.'
Maximum Speed
522mph
540mph
596mph
Rate of Climb
4,230 '/min
3,937 '/min
11,810 '/min
Range
620 miles
526 miles
50 miles
Service Ceiling
36,000'
37,565'
54,000'
Armament
2x20mm cannons
4x30mm cannons
2x30mm cannons
Source: Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, by Mike Spick (c) 1996

He-162 & Adversary Comparison

 
He-162
Spitfire XIV
Tempest V
P-51D
Wing Loading
46 lb/sq.'
35 lb/sq.'
38 lb/sq.'
43 lb/sq.'
Maximum Speed
522mph
448 mph
435 mph
437 mph
Service Ceiling
36,000'
44,500'
36,000'
40,000'
Rate of Climb
4,230'/min
4,580'/min
4,700'/min
3,475'/min
Range
620 miles
460 miles
740 miles
2,080 miles
Armament
2x20mm Cannons
2x20mm Cannons & 2x0.5" MGs
4x20mm Cannons
6x0.5" MGs
Source: Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, by Mike Spick (c) 1996

He-162A-2 & Gloster Meteor FMk.III Comparison

 
He-162A-2
Gloster Meteor FMk. III
Max Speed Sea Level
491mph*
486mph
Max Speed
521mph (19,690')**
493 mph (30,000')
Initial Rate of Climb
3,780 '/min
3,980 '/min
Service Ceiling
39,400 '
46,000 '
Range
606 miles
504 miles
* At maximum thrust for 30 seconds - 553 mph ** At maximum thrust for 30 seconds - 562 mph SOURCES: He-162A-2 - Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green (c) 1970. Gloster Meteor FMk. III - History of War (www.historyofwar.org)

Possibilities

In his book, The First and The Last, Generalleutnant Adolf Galland called the He-162 a step backward compared to the Me-262. The brochure performance gives the He-162 some advantages over the Me-262. Its top speed was 20 miles per hour slower than the Me-262 the He-162 had a dash capability that could make it fly faster than the Me-262 for up to 30 seconds. The Salamander was more maneuverable but the bonding problems made taking advantage of this maneuverability risky. It had a significantly better rate of climb than the Me-262. He-162s had a range almost 100 miles greater than the Me-262s. The two 20 millimeter cannons were adequate against fighters but not against heavy bombers. It took an average of 20-25 hits from 20 millimeter cannons to bring down a heavy bomber. The Germans had been developing an air-air rocket system for the He-162.

In the autumn of 1944 there was no aircraft Germany could develop and deploy in sufficient numbers to seriously challenge Allied air superiority. As part of a hypothetical air force in sufficient numbers and with competent pilots it would have been a formidable adversary to a piston engine air force. How many He-162 it would take to combat a 1,200 heavy bomber force with 700 escorting fighters? How would it be as part of a high-low mix with the He-162’s dealing with the opposing fighters while the more heavily armed Me-262s attack the bombers? These are questions for game simulators.

© 2014 Robert Sacchi

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    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 13 months ago from Minnesota

      Thankfully, Hitler was betrayed.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 13 months ago

      You're welcome. Considering what the NAZIs were doing they definitely generated tremendous hatred among those they enslaved. There was also a case of a Ju 290, nicknamed by the Americans "Alles Kaput". After the war a mixed German and American crew flew it back to the states. When the plane was being scrapped they found a bomb had been planted inside the aircraft, apparently while it was being built.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 13 months ago from Minnesota

      Thank you for the history lesson on the He-162. Its terrible to think the some of the slave labor would have sabotaged the planes, that would take some tremendous hatred to do. You go into such great detail, I am impressed.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 18 months ago

      The Holocaust Museum in DC also mentions other post Holocaust atrocities.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 18 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I am sure that the Holocaust Museum in DC is a good one also. There is a small theater as one exits the exhibit area in Houston where survivors of the Holocaust...ones living here in Houston...speak of what they experienced. Of course most of them were children at the time. That is truly gut wrenching hearing them speak of what they experienced!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 19 months ago

      Yes, the scale of the horrors are difficult to imagine. I've been to the Holocaust Museum in DC.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 19 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Thank heavens the war ended when it did. We recently visited the Holocaust Museum here in Houston. Such horrors took place!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 19 months ago

      Actually the Germans were able to accomplish a lot production wise with unskilled workers. Fortunately the U.S. and Russia had enormous industry, and other, capacities. It wasn't so much what the Germans thought they could do but what they had little choice but to try.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 19 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Amazing that they thought they could assemble an airplane by people with little skill in doing so. That was good for the Allies!